Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi government has arrested Patrick George Zaki, a human rights activist and researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), on his return to Cairo from Italy on 8 February, Saturday. Zaki (27) was visiting Egypt to meet his family and was detained from the Cairo airport.
He has been charged with spreading false news, statements to distort social peace, inciting people to protest without obtaining a permit, seeking to overthrow the regime, harming national security and promoting the use of violence. These allegations have been mounted against him on the basis of some Facebook posts.
The activist was out of communication for 24 hours before he was produced in a court in Mansoura, his home town 120 kilometres away from the capital. Zaki’s lawyers claimed that during those 24 hours of disappearance he was brutally beaten and tortured in the police custody. The prosecutors have secured 15 days custody for him.
EIPR demanded the immediate release of the activist, calling for an “end of continued harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights professionals, members of civil society groups and journalists,” in a statement published on its website.
Since usurping power in a 2013 coup against the elected president Mohammad Morsi, the Sisi-led government in Egypt has adopted an oppressive policy of preventing all forms of political dissent. His government has enacted several laws banning all kinds of protests without prior permissions and has used the state agencies, such as the police and the courts to imprison thousands of activists and journalists, who are critical of his government.
Political rights of the people, including the right to freedom of expression have been heavily curtailed by the Sisi regime under the pretext of political stability and national security. Many activists have disappeared and later been found dead. According to observers, persons involved in these acts of abduction have been provided complete immunity by the government.
In 2016, a 28-years-old Italian PhD scholar, Guilio Regeni, was abducted and killed. Though the Egyptain government claimed that he was murdered by a gang, it is alleged that Regeni was actually killed by Egyptian security forces for his involvement in left-wing politics in the country.
The Erasmus Mundus Master in Women and Gender Studies (GEMMA) published a joint statement with several several universities on University of Granada’s website asking for Zaki’s release and demanded that “all necessary measures be taken so that new threats and attacks against students, researchers, academics, journalists and human rights defenders are not repeated.” Zaki is pursuing a masters in GEMMA programme at the University of Bologna, Italy.